It’s Veterans Day, so instead of a shallow topic like upholstery, I’m honoring the men in my family who have enabled me to freely be who I am. Men who have left me an honorable legacy. Fortunately my grandfather Pop, who’s in the above picture, left us a wealth of information about our family history. And then my father in his final years hired a genealogist to bring the family history up to date. It’s now up to me, to continue the research and to then create and print the family history in a hardbound book. After spending the first four months of this year clearing out the old family home and bringing all the important papers and photos here to my house, I reached a saturation point. Eventually I will be editing, scanning, and filing all of the millions of photos, but only after I have had time to recover from the burnout.
FYI: If the copy reads stiff and tedious, it’s because I copied from various word files that the genealogist had created. The time involved pulling this post together was way more than I expected. Trunks and boxes were searched for missing photographs, then there was the scanning, then there was the composing, so if I were to have this up before Veterans Day came to an end, I had to forego perfection. Besides none of this generates any revenue.
We’ll start with my paternal grandfather.
Frank Frederick Bell II
Frank Frederick Bell II (1888 – 1968). In June 1917 after the United States entered World War I, Frank passed the examinations, was commissioned as First Lieutenant, Signal Reserve Corps, Aviation Section, and was ordered to active duty at Chandler Flying Field in Essington, Pennsylvania, July 20, 1917. From September 1918 to November 1918, because of a cyclone blowing down the field, overseas orders were rescinded. He then helped rebuild the field and performed duties as Assistant Engineering Officer and Instructor in Formation Flying, Gerstner Field, Louisiana; Classification Bombing Pilot.
He was honorably discharged January 20, 1919 with rank of Captain, R. M. A. Air Service (Aeronautics), U. S. A.. He did not accept Reserve Commission at this time but later decided to come into the service, so he was commissioned Captain, Corps of Engineers Reserve, U. S. A. January 26, 1923; Captain, Coast Artillery Reserve, 1932; Major C. A. Res. 1932; Lt. Colonel C. A. Res. 1938, during which time he commanded the 972nd Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) Regiment; Inactive Res. August, 1941 to December, 1942 due to physical disability which was corrected. Ordered to extended active duty as Lt. Colonel Corps of Engineers January 2, 1943, reporting to Engineer Unit Training Center, Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. He was promoted to Colonel, Corps of Engineers, AUS April 1, 1944 and returned to inactive status as Colonel Engineer Reserve December 28, 1945. Promoted to Brigadier General, Reserve Corps April 26, 1948, he served two weeks active duty in the rank and retired as Brigadier General, AUS, September 27 that year, having reached the statutory age under Public Law 810.
Dudley Edwards Bell
Dudley Edwards Bell (1894 – 1974) entered Plattsburg Training Camp May 8, 1917. At completion of camp, he applied for Regular Army Commission, but was first commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps, Infantry, August 15, 1917, and then Second Lieutenant, Regular Army Infantry October 26, 1917. The commission had been held up to permit seniority of West Point graduates.
Dudley Edwards Bell embarked for overseas on the Meganitc May 10, 1918, arrived at Liverpool, England, and immediately embarked for Calais, France, where he was entrained for Samer, France, and remained with Headquarters 4th Division, U. S. A. for one week, after which he was ordered to 9th Squadron, Royal Air Force, British Expeditionary Forces.
Dudley Bell wounded in action. He reported for duty to 9th Squadron and was immediately put on flying duty about June 1, 1918. The Squadron moved to Argenvillers and war flights were made daily and sometimes at night, during which he did active front line work until July 4, 1918. On the morning of July 4 during an attack in that area by the British, Australian and American forces, while acting as observer, his plane was attacked by several German planes while flying near the town of Hamel (near Amiens). They were shot down, falling about 1800 feet, his pilot killed, and Bell was severely wounded by machine gun fire and badly injured from the crash. He was shot in the forehead and dislocated his thigh. He was picked up by American stretcher bearers, attached to the Australian troops, and shipped from battlefield to General Hospital, Rouen, France July 6, 1918. About a week later, he was moved to La Havre where a hospital ship conveyed wounded to Southampton, England. Bell was then transported to McCaul’s Hospital in London, where skillful surgery was applied and as soon as sufficiently recovered, he was sent to Rest Camp at Hursley, England, October 4, 1918.
In the meantime, he had been promoted to First Lieutenant, Infantry, U. S. A., June 17, 1917. On November 29, 1918, he was ordered to Port of Re-embarkation in Liverpool and disembarked from the Cedric in New York December 24, 1918, where he was ordered to Camp Mills until honorably discharged February 4, 1919. He held the Purple Heart and World War I Victory Medal with one battle clasp.
Frank Frederick Bell III
Frank Frederick Bell III (1921 – 1998). In May 1942, during his senior year at the University of Texas, Frank left to join the armed forces and enlisted as Naval Aviation Cadet, reporting to Hensley Field, Dallas, May 21. After completing his primary flying there, he was transferred to U. S. Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas in August for more advanced training. After the completion of this course, he became a Cadet Lieutenant Junior, and then Senior grade. On February 6, 1943, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant Naval Aviator, U.S. Marine Air Corps, and flew PBY anti-submarine patrol missions in the Gulf of Mexico.
After instructing in twin engine flying at Marine Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina, he was sent to Instrument Flight Instructors School, Atlanta, Georgia from April 10 to June 10. After completing his course, he became instrument flight instructor at Marine Air Base, Santa Barbara, California, and was promoted to First Lieutenant as of August 1, 1943. From there he went to Marine Air Station, Camp Kearney, San Diego, California, as instructor in multi-engine R4D and R5C planes; thence to Marine Air Station, Corvallis, Oregon to join the newly activated Marine Transport Squadron VMR 953. In April 1944, this squadron flew to its new base at Ewa Field Marine Station, Oahu, T. H..
Having been promoted to Captain August 30, 1944, as first pilot of a C-46 Transport, he participated in the war flight operations of his squadron on the Hawaii-Palmyra-Canton-Funa Futi-Espiritu Santo-Quadalcanal-Russell Island route, and the Canton-Tarawa-Majuro-Kwadjelein, Eniwetok-Guam-Lyete and Johnston Islands-Majuro and French Frigate-Midway routes.
During World War II, Frank F. Bell, III held two flying records in a Marine R5C. He held the record for flying a R5C (or a C46, Army) for 15 hours and 40 minutes over the Pacific Ocean. This occurred when he was taking a new plane for his Squadron VMR 953 to Hawaii from San Diego, California. Due to a wrong compass heading given him at take-off, his navigator told Frank that according to star shots they were not on the right course. Frank changed to a no-wind heading for the Hawaiian Islands. He found that they were flying into strong head winds as they were on the wrong side of a low. Leaning the engines, he let down over the water, preparing to ditch as they were long overdue for the estimated time of landing at the Islands. He barely made it to Ewa Field. As he landed, the engines quit – no more fuel. No one believed it could be done.
On a flight from Guam to Eniwetok, he lost the port engine at the half-way point, with 500 miles to go. Unable to unload the freight, he was able to hold the plane at 500 feet above water, arriving at Eniwetok in four hours and twenty minutes. This was another record for flying time on a single engine.
Flying his plane back to U. S. July 5, 1945, he was placed inactive as Captain, Marine Air Corps Reserve December 2 of that year, and later promoted to Major, Marine Air Corps Reserve. He held the Unit Presidential Citation Ribbon for participating in record flights of Squadron VMR 953; and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign (one battle star), American Theatre, and World War II Victory Medals.
Frank F. Bell, III put in two thousand hours of wartime flying.
Edwin Sharpe Bell
Edwin Sharpe Bell (1923 – 1998), my father. In the service, he first reported to Camp Wolter, Mineral Wells, Texas. In July, 1943 he was transferred to Camp Abbot, Bend, Oregon for basic engineer training, being made Acting Corporal in August. Having qualified, he was sent to the Engineer Officer Candidate School, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, November 1943, with the rank of Corporal, graduating and receiving a commission as Second Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, AUS, March 21, 1944. Before leaving, he completed the Topographical Supply and Map Distribution course there. On April 12, 1944, he was assigned to the 657th Engineer Topographic Battalion at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and served with this unit there and at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. After a six weeks’ course in the field production of terrain models at the US Navy Terrain Model School in New York City, he motor-convoyed to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and on the 29th of December 1944 was assigned to the 12th Detachment Special Troops, Second Army. He then went to Indian Town Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania to depart from New York City on the ship Santa Rosa to Le Havre, France, thence to Liege, Belgium, to Muchengodbauck, Germany and rejoined the 657th Engineer Topographic Battalion with the 15th Army in Bad Neuenahr, Germany on May 6, 1945.
After V-E Day, this battalion sailed from Marseilles, France in the ship Ocean Mail via Panama Canal-Eniwetak-Ulithe to Okinawa, arriving 6 October, then to Yokohama, Japan October 14. He was promoted to First Lieutenant October 26, 1945.
In November, he was assigned to 3363rd Engineer Base Survey Company at Tokyo and moved with this unit to Seoul, Korea May 1946 and thence to Yung Dong Poe. He served as operations officer of the 3363rd, also personnel and supply officer. He then returned in the transport Phoenix to the United States at Fort Lewis, where he was placed on inactive duty as First Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers Reserve as of September 23, 1946. He holds the European-African-and Middle Eastern, the Asiatic-Pacific, and the American Theater Campaign Medals as well as the Army of Occupation Medal (Japan) and World War II Victory Medal.